I reviewed Dear Mynd and this is what I felt

20 July 2023
Shreya Gupta Written by Shreya Gupta
Shreya Gupta

Shreya Gupta

Shreya is a writer who helps brands improve their performance with her writing. She also loves...

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Do you have a story to tell? Not of the thirsty crow or the blue jackal. A story from your own life. Now that must have gotten your mind rolling! Remember the time you lied at home and got in trouble? Or when you flunked a subject in college? What about your first heartbreak? These, and more, are the stories that make us who we are. And Dear Mynd is home to all such stories, encouraging a conversation around human experiences and mental health. 

When you first tune in to Dear Mynd, a gentle, calming voice welcomes you to the little storytelling session. That’s the host, Srividya Sivakumar. She’s a critically acclaimed poet, TEDx Speaker, and voice actor who can immediately draw you into the world of stories – this world of Xini, Chiru, Aarav, and us. 

“We are, after all, our stories. And our stories are us,” Srividya says. But how relatable can a story around mental health be? I thought to myself as the story started.

The one with the new girl

The first episode of Dear Mynd, “The one with the new girl,” takes us through the journey of “The New Girl,” written by Srividhya Venkat. She is a Chicago-based children’s writer, a performance storyteller, and a former early childhood educator. This story draws greatly from her understanding of children’s psyche and is bound to teleport your mind to your old classroom. The hustle-bustle of lunch hours. Participating in fun little programs. Making plenty of friends, and some more. Oh, how less demanding our childhood friendships were! But they aren’t easy to come by. 

The episode reflects on the complexities of human relationships and tells us how acceptance is easy if we think like kids.

Our childhood experiences teach us a lot about navigating through the real world, as we adults call it now. “The New Girl” is about a new girl, Xini, who finds herself out of place in school, far from her home in Mizoram. 

Her story is not unique. We all have, at some point in our life, experienced being the ‘new’ one. Our first time in a new city. Our first workplace. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. Those daunting eyeballs – of strangers on the street, of colleagues – all seem to be peering into our souls. That’s how Xini felt, but her friendship with Meera eases her life. Again, we all may have found our Meera in the kindest of people around us – for Xini’s story is not unique. That’s what makes it so special. 

This episode of Dear Mynd is relatable to all of us. 

Listening to Xini braving the challenges brought a sense of peace to me. It seemed like I fought alongside her to create my place in a class where I was “different.” Did we win? You’ll have to listen to this beautiful story to find that out. 

The one with Bhaiyya

With the first story, all my doubts about “how relatable a story around mental health can be” washed away. Turns out, we don’t need to resonate with the characters of every story. Sometimes, we only have to empathize with them to start the conversation. Taking a step towards mental well-being is really that simple – it can happen over a story. 

This realization helped me fully grasp the essence of “The one with Bhaiyya,” the second episode of Dear Mynd. It’s a narration of the story “Who Stole Bhaiya’s Smile” by Sanjana Kapur that looks at the heavy subject of depression from a child’s eyes. Sanjana has written some picture books and comics for Amar Chitra Katha. She says, “She deals in tall tales, lively anecdotes, and big pictures.” This is where the story draws its simplicity from. 

“The one with Bhaiyya,” is a short tale of how a little girl, Chiru, looks at her elder brother’s depression.

Kids and their ways! She thinks of depression as a monster and names it Dukduk. How does Bhaiya’s Dukduk impact Chiru’s life? Are the adults around him seeing Dukduk too? What are they saying? Will Dukduk go away? 

These are a few answers you’ll get when you listen to this episode of Dear Mynd. 

But for me, what stood out was the simplicity of its narrative. It conveys a strong message in fewer words – that too from a child’s perspective. This approach strangely tones down the gravity of the subject but also makes the story more impactful.

The discussions about depression are growing, but we still have a long way to go.

For starters, this story nudges us to think about how one person’s depression impacts their family members, friends, partners, and colleagues. And if we know someone struggling with depression, how can we be careful with our words? 

Little Chiru is kinder and more patient with Dukduk than all adults in her family. She waits for Bhaiya’s old smile to return occasionally and keeps taking small steps to be there for him – with her games and Mangasur. The story also emphasizes the need for professional intervention, that’s often overlooked. We rely on our friends and family as counselors, but it’s not a sustainable approach. Like all health disorders, your mental health needs professional guidance to be A-OK. 

I’m letting “The one with Bhaiyya” be my reminder that I’m not alone. Help is available whenever I require it. 

The one that almost went away

The third episode of Dear Mynd, “The one that almost went away” written by Smitha Murthy, is the closest to me, personally. We, the 90s kids, have grown up with a Bollywood-ised idea of dreams and chasing them successfully. If you’re a Hindi filmgoer, you’d be lying if Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha didn’t make you feel like quitting your job. Or, if Farhan from 3 Idiots didn’t convince you to leave that stressful degree and pick up a camera. However much I’d love for it to be true, real life is far from films. 

Not all of us who quit our jobs become international storytelling sensations, like Ranbir Kapoor’s character in Tamasha. That decision is loaded with emotional, financial, and familial stress that our big-screen films don’t capture. And god forbid if any of our film heroes fail! They don’t. But we do, in reality. This is where Smitha Murthy’s “The One That Almost Went Away” comes in with its truer representation of the world. 

It tells the story of Aarav, who is burdened by the pressure of attending an IIT. But his heart belongs to his pencils, paints, and canvas.

On a rainy day, as his thoughts linger on choosing between his dreams and professional stability, he closes his eyes and starts painting. The story is an auditory delight that takes you through the mental space of a boy conflicted between the two roads diverging in the yellow wood. Aarav’s process of choosing his dreams over an IIT is the story. But its essence? It lies in the postscript that tells us Aarav never really became an artist. Maybe he failed to achieve his goal? Maybe he didn’t want to pursue it later? Maybe life came in the way? We don’t know. 

All we know is that Aarav shaped his dreams to fit into his life and founded an art therapy school. He started teaching others to express emotions through colors, pastels, and paint.

As the host Srividya says, and I repeat, “Dreams can be shaped.”

Most of us will relate to Aarav, more to his life, summed up in two sentences of the postscript. In our hearts, we aspire to be artists, writers, poets, dancers, and whatnot! But we fear failure. We don’t know how to deal with the pressures of trading a cushioned life for the uncertainties of the oceans of our dreams. This episode of Dear Mynd is our cue to preach: Dreams can be shaped. All we need to do is look out for ourselves. 

Well, was this read worth your time? In the three episodes I have reviewed, the series has touched upon different aspects of life that impact our mental well-being – dealing with otherization, understanding depression, and building a life you’d love. 

I hope these little storytelling sessions get the conversation started. I hope you find a bit of yourself, too, in these stories. In Srividya’s words, “We are, after all, our stories. And our stories are us.”

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